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HHS Reports Increase in Medicare Patients Being Hospitalized with Sepsis

HHS Reports Increase in Medicare Patients Being Hospitalized with Sepsis


U.S. hospitals saw a 40 percent increase in the rate of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with sepsis over the past seven years according to a study by HHS researchers; the cost to Medicare is estimated at more than $41.5 billion just for 2018.  


“Sepsis is a lethal and costly health threat affecting Americans’ lives and our economy, yet many Americans may have never heard of it,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. “Any infection can lead to sepsis, including infections caused by influenza or emerging diseases like coronaviruses, which makes sepsis a significant concern in public health emergencies.”


According to HHS, the research team analyzed data from all Medicare beneficiaries from 2012 through 2018. The study included more than 9.5 million inpatient hospital admissions, making this the largest sepsis study based on contemporary Medicare data to be published in the United States. HHS reports that most patients with sepsis arrived at the hospital with the condition, rather than developing sepsis in the hospital, a possible indicator of success for CMS efforts to reduce hospital-based cases of sepsis. However, two-thirds of these sepsis patients had a medical encounter in the week prior to hospitalization. This finding represents an opportunity for improved education and awareness among patients and healthcare providers, as well as the need for diagnostics to detect sepsis early.


The analysis explored the impact of sepsis severity on health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. Despite declining mortality overall, 10 percent of patients with non-severe forms of sepsis died while in the hospital or within a week of discharge, and 60 percent with non-severe forms of sepsis died within three years.


Outcomes were worse among patients with septic shock. Forty percent of these patients died while in the hospital or within a week of being discharged, and 75 percent died within three years. The risk of sepsis was even greater for patients who had other chronic health conditions and the risk of death in the hospital and within three years was greater among these patients if they developed sepsis.


The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented an inpatient bundled sepsis measure in its Inpatient Hospital Quality Reporting Program. This measure is a series of steps to detect and treat sepsis earlier in its course. CMS data have shown that since implementation, organizations that follow all the steps have significantly lower mortality rates for patients diagnosed with severe sepsis and septic shock. The agency is also tackling sepsis in post-acute care settings and is developing a measure for early detection and treatment of healthcare-associated infections, including sepsis in post-acute care settings.


The CDC has also developed tools for tracking sepsis in individual hospitals to help healthcare facilities assess adult sepsis incidence within their facilities and measure their prevention progress. The CDC’s national educational campaign, Get Ahead of Sepsis for patients, healthcare professionals, and the general public emphasizes the importance of early recognition, timely treatment, reassessment of antibiotic needs, and prevention of infections.


Sepsis Alliance is the leading sepsis organization in the U.S. working in all 50 states to save lives and reduce suffering from sepsis. Sepsis Alliance is a charitable organization run by a dedicated team who share a strong commitment to battling sepsis. Sepsis Alliance has a wealth of educational offerings for patients and their families and providers.


Sepsis Alliance has a new webinar offering for March, in which Staff Physician Steven P. LaRosa will address sepsis clinical criteria in patients, as well as methods used to diagnose sepsis. 


Every healthcare should aim to create a reliable system of policies, protocols and staff education that decreases the risk for both death and morbidity from sepsis.




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